There isn’t a lot that connects these films, other than the fact that they are all budget-conscious SF and were released in 1958. All are joys for fans of the genre, however.
The Giant Behemoth was director Eugene Lourié’s second giant-dinosaur-on-the-loose film, after The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and before Gorgo (1960). It is also the weakest of the three, but not without its charms. Signs of an intensely radioactive being are proliferating on the Eng…ish coast. Scientists Gene Evans and Andre Morell investigate, and discover an dinosaur with electric eel-like capabilities is on the prowl. The special effects (including stop-motion by Willis O’Brien) vary hugely in quality, from the motionless model head that attacks a ferry to the rather impressively animated beast that lumbers onto land (even if the same shots keep being reused). The cast takes the proceedings seriously, and the cinematography is a wonderfully moody black-and-white with some terrific compositions in depth. This release is particularly welcome as the previous VHS version of the film was missing a good ten minutes of footage, including the aforementioned ferry attack, a scene that, for all its cheese, is also rather dark.
Questions surround the other two films as to their intent: were they supposed to be funny or not? Opinions vary. I’m inclined to agree with Bill Warren’s surmises regarding Queen of Outer Space: Charles Beaumont’s script was meant to be funny, but director Edward Bernds didn’t really get it (or was too pedestrian a workman to convey the humour). A group of astronauts wearing uniforms from Forbidden Planet crash (via footage from Robinson Crusoe on Mars) on the planet Venus. They discover a society made up entirely of women. The titular queen (Laurie Mitchell), embittered and paranoid, plots Earth’s destruction, but our heroes receive help from scientist Zsa Zsa Gabor. The film plays like wonky episode of Star Trek ten years early, and though most of the humor is killed by the flat direction, but there’s enough camp value to raise a smile or two.
I quote Jeff Rovin: “If Attack of the 50-Foot Woman was intended to be taken seriously, it’s the worst film ever made. If it was intended as a put-on, it’s one of the great science-fiction satires.” Either way, the movie is hilarious. If Tennessee Williams had written a script for Ed Wood, the result might well have been this tale of rich alcoholic Allison Hayes and her obsessive love for her no-account husband William Hudson, who, along with floozy Yvette Vickers, is plotting to get her out of the way, in one manner or another. An alien giant who needs diamonds to fuel his UFO (called a “satellite” in the film) expands both diamonds and Hayes. Cue giant rubber hands and transparent double-exposure effects. Cheap as the film is, the cast sink their collective teeth deep into the overheated storyline. The result is both hilarious and gripping.
The original mono is the only option here – no stereo remixes. I suppose one might wish for stereo rumbles during the Behemoth’s rampage, but that would be churlish. The mono is crisp, clean, and free of static. Distortion isn’t a problem, either. Quite frankly, with sound this clean, there really isn’t any reason to complain.
The original aspect ratios of the films are respected, ranging from 1.66:1 to 2.35:1 (for Queen), all anamorphic. Queen is the only colour film in the set, and its colours, though bright, do fluctuate somewhat. The print also shows noticeable blemishes in the last few minutes. Otherwise, though, the image is sharp and the contrasts good. The other two films are drawn from superb prints with virtually no damage or grain. The black-and-white tones are magnificent, and it is difficult to imagine a sharper image.
Each disc comes with the film’s theatrical trailer and a commentary track. Historian and interiewer par excellence Tom Weaver is host for Queen and Attack, joined by Laurie Mitchell and Yvette Vickers respectively. The conversations are lively and full of fun memories. Veteran FX men Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett cast their gaze on Behemoth. Their discussion of the FX themselves are excellent, but they don’t have too much to offer beyond that.
These are great films to have on disc, even if they aren’t great films in and of themselves, if you know what I mean.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Theatrical Trailers